In an update to the parental supervision feature launched in 2021, WeChat’s teen users now have the option to request parental permission to watch livestreams.
When Teen Mode is activated, users selecting a livestream within the Channels tab (like a short video feed) will receive an age restriction message. From there they can opt to request guardian permission, which will instantly trigger a notification on the parent or guardian’s WeChat account.
A new request must be sent for each livestream and Teen Mode can only be activated from the teen’s account, meaning young people can opt in or out of close parental supervision.
Previously WeChat enabled parents to set time limits for their teens as well as choose which content categories to block completely. The new livestream permission request feature finetunes parental control, giving parents the ability to pick and choose individual items of content. This way, parents can block livestreams as a general category, but make exceptions for potentially educational content.
WeChat launched the parental supervision and teen mode functions in 2021 after panic surrounding youth gaming addiction reached a fever pitch. To curb the problem, the government banned teens from gaming on school nights, with gaming time restricted to just 1 hour on remaining days.
Mobile games sales account for over 70% of total games sales in China, attesting to the popularity of the sub-category. Since some mobile games are accessible via apps like WeChat, the addition of parental supervision to the platform was a welcome move for concerned parents and government officials.
WeChat’s Teen Mode is even more relevant now than when it was first introduced. Since 2021 and the exponential rise of TikTok and other short video platforms, concerns over gaming addiction have been displaced by fears over short video addiction.
However, WeChat Channels’ daily users are far outstripped by those of short video-focussed platforms like Kuaishou and Douyin, meaning parents concerned about teens’ content consumption will only gain limited control through the WeChat feature.